Gerald’s Game puts a damper on cuffing season


Nadya Awino

Gerald’s Game, a Netflix original, attempts to thrill the audience with a movie adaption of Stephen King’s 1992 novel. The story centers around a married couple who takes a remote vacation that goes terribly awry when the husband dies, leaving his wife cuffed to the bed. “To be stranded in a cabin cuffed to a bed would be my worst nightmare,” NC student Danyel Cateu said.

Nadya Awino, Photo Editor

DISCLAIMER: This article covers explicit topics contained in the film, proceed with viewer discretion.

On September 29, Netflix released Gerald’s Game, a thriller adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The movie stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as Jessie and Gerald Burlingame respectively, a couple that travels to a remote location for a sweet, romantic weekend that quickly turns sour as death takes its toll. Gerald’s Game received an 89% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, as well as rave reviews from Metacritic and Stephen King himself.

The movie begins in the car, as Jessie and Gerald cruise to their secluded cabin in the woods. They discuss how their getaway will put their marriage back on course, hoping to reignite the love they once shared. After nearly running over a wild dog, the couple arrives at the cabin and settles in. While her husband pops a Viagra, Jessie looks through the fridge and discovers four packs of raw meat. Placing the uncooked food on a plate, she leaves it outside for the starving stray to eat; immediately, Gerald walks out and scolds her for wasting his expensive steak on a dog. Setting the stage for the rest of the movie, he proceeds to lead her to the bedroom, Jessie saying nothing as the front door remains ajar.

Jessie changes into a silk slip as Gerald takes another Viagra in the adjoining bathroom, clearly about to reignite the aforementioned spark. Gerald excitedly pulls out handcuffs, emphasizing their durability, and cuffs his wife to the bed. He starts to kiss and caress her, acting as someone else, but Jessie’s anxiety rises as his aggression increases. As Gerald ignores her cries to stop, her tepid demeanor changes when he refuses to take her out of the handcuffs. She knees him in the face and kicks him off of her, demanding loudly that he uncuff her. The couple proceeds to argue about their marriage; Gerald blames Jessie for their failed marriage, and Jessie, disgusted by his “game,” scolds him for trying to act out his rape fantasies on her. In this moment, her husband clutches his chest and keels over dead, seemingly of a heart attack. Leaving Jessie chained to the bed, wailing for no one to hear, Gerald’s death sets the plot in motion. Apparitions of Gerald and Jessie herself appear to the stranded woman as delirium sets in.

Throughout the movie, Netflix plays on the “man versus…” themes of literature, pitting Jessie against the hungry dog that slips in through the open door, the figure of Death himself, and delusions of her own mind. The stray presents a constant threat, feeding on Gerald’s corpse and waiting patiently to attack whenever Jessie lets her guard down. Death appears in the shadowy corners of the room with a box full of jewelry and bones, presumably from other taken souls.

The apparitions that appear to Jessie taunt her with the mistakes of her past. Her deceased husband blames her for their failed, childless marriage while a vision of herself defends the weak, dehydrated Jessie. Their banter exposes their faults as a couple, where Gerald saw Jessie as an object to satisfy his needs, and Jessie let Gerald dominate the relationship in spite of her feelings. Her mirror image encourages her throughout the movie by noting the objects she can use around her to escape the cuffs, and how her traumatic childhood prepared her for this moment.

While the audience roots for her in moments of distress, Jessie’s anti-climactic storyline makes better background noise than actual entertainment. Gugino delivered a powerful performance as Jessie Burlingame, perfectly expressing the horror and confusion her character felt. However, Gugino’s performance cannot carry the rest of the movie forward. Netflix producers use Jessie’s childhood as a subplot to add depth to the story, but it falls flat. Jessie’s sexual assault experience with her father confuses the audience instead of inciting empathy as intended. It provides no insight as to how the incident affects her in the present, or how the flashbacks and symbolic solar eclipse add to the story.

Moreover, the producers attempt to characterize her as weak to set the stage for character development and a triumphant victory, but Jessie’s escape felt long overdue rather than riveting falling action. She cuts her wrists and uses the blood to slick her wrists enough to pull them out; Jessie nearly skins her hand in the process, but she finally escapes and receives aid from neighbors in the area.

The ending felt rushed and poorly put together. The conclusion moves forward six months, after Jessie receives Gerald’s life insurance policy and starts a charity for sexual assault victims. She comes across a news story about an Acromegalic man with a penchant for digging up graves and murdering men near the secluded cabin. Jessie visits the courtroom during the trial and approaches him, debunking the figure of “Death” lurking in the cabin. Again, the disappointing end provided no satisfaction for viewers.

“I liked the concept, but the movie was honestly so boring,” NC senior Rahja Francis said.

Overall, Netflix proves their worthiness in the movie production world, but they still need to work on creating interesting storylines and executing them well. Watch the trailer for Gerald’s Game here.


The Chant’s grade: C-